Welcome back to another edition of B1G Headlines and Hot Takes!
I took last week off to vacation in Vermont and drank way too much while staring at a river. It was pretty much everything I ever thought it could ever be. But it’s back to Big Ten football now, and as I surfed the Google-webs for tasty B1G nuggets recently, I quickly realized that Big Ten Media Days is a bit of a content hog. For the most part, it was all that happened and you’ve probably read endless articles about the blurbs and sound bites that came out of it.
Be that as it may, I was able to find a couple of non-Media Days stories.
The Indy Star ran a quick little piece highlighting some of the players to watch for the Hoosiers if they are to take the next step as a program. There weren’t really any surprises on the list, but it did remind me just how dangerous I think Indiana can be this year. They are going to win a game or two in 2017 that will dramatically shape the Big Ten East race — possible even the Big Ten West. They are going to be an interesting team to watch this season, and for the first time in a while, it could be the defense that provides much of the entertainment.
Joey Julius falls off the food wagon
Everyone’s favorite kicker — Penn State’s Joey Julius — is no longer playing college football right now as a result of relapsing while dealing with a binge-eating disorder. His struggles were enough to cause him to leave both the team and school for further treatment.
This story hits close to home for me, as I’m a guy who has struggled with my weight and food my entire life. That aside, how could you not love watching Joey scream down the field and crush kick returners? I’ll miss his “every man” physique roaming the field on kickoffs this season and I wish him the best of luck as he battles through his demons.
Quarterback Controversy in Ann Arbor?
MLive’s Nick Baumgardner wrote a piece recently that took me by surprise. He talked about how Michigan’s starting quarterback job may still be undecided. I was caught off guard, mostly because I’ve been functioning and writing from the position of Wilton Speight being the clear cut starter heading into 2017 — and I don’t think I’m alone. Baumgardner hit me with a glass of cold water and reminded me that Jim Harbaugh ALWAYS puts the better player on the field, even if that means benching a returning starter at quarterback.
P.J. Fleck: He’s an acquired taste — but also dangerous
One of the stars of Big Ten Media Days — perhaps unsurprisingly — was Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck. The Omaha World Herald’s Lee Barfknect wrote a piece about Fleck’s time at the podium in Chicago, mostly with a positive slant. It even included a quote from a former Husker player about how Fleck will be the most hated coach in the Big Ten in two years.
Welp, that process seems to have already begun. PennLive’s David Jones ranked the podium presence of all 14 Big Ten coaches at the microphone in Chicago. Suffice to say, he was less-than-impressed with Fleck, ranking him at No. 11 and comparing him to the Sham-Wow guy — basically accusing him of being a greasy salesman.
I’ll just say this: salesman or not, nobody had better be sleeping on Fleck or Minnesota. Nobody better underestimate his energy and how it translates to current players and future recruits, as he coaches the only FBS program in his state. Nobody should underestimate what he can do with a corps of Big Ten players that won nine games a season ago after he took a team full of MAC players to the Cotton Bowl and went blow for blow with Wisconsin.
P.J. Fleck is the real deal, and I believe a lot of people with a vested interest in Big Ten football are going to find that out sooner rather than later.